Highlights exposure/color vs JPEG

I’ve been fiddling with strange highlights exposure for some time. Embedded JPEGs of my old Sony often feature better DR/colorization of highlights. I’ve been unable to recover the color/DR using Darktable.

I use the scene-referred workflow - am I missing something obvious? Is the base exposure wrong? Would masking help?

A nice example is this car - compare the illuminated part of its trunk (top right).

  • Embedded JPEG - nice smooth transitions, nice exposure/coloration, blends in.
  • Developed JPEG - harsh transitions, discolored, stands out.

DSC04928.ARW (23.8 MB)
DSC04928.ARW.xmp (6.7 KB)

Hi @Y69 and welcome to the forum.

Which version of darktable do you use?

In this example red channel is overexposed and accordingly loses color in highlights.:

You can either compress highlights more with “white relative exposure” slider in filmic…

…and/or reduce the exposure of the highlights with Tone Equalizer.


Hi, I use version 3.8.1.

In my defense, I knew about those exposure tweaks you mentioned, it just makes the image very flat. Compare the look of the chrome parts (the tip of the bumper, slats, or door handle).

I have not processed the top photo any further. It was about the highlights.

You can then increase the local contrast with diffuse and sharpen module and also increase the contrast with color balance RGB:


Thanks @s7habo. I guess a decent amount of contrast applied makes the picture work.

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Is the image you shared in your first post the embedded jpg or the developped one?

It is the developed one.

That is raw file with your sidecar file.

Quick question re local contrast - is an instance of the diffuse module with the ¨local contrast¨ preset better or worse than the local contrast module? Assuming you have a GPU that can devour the diffuse moduleś processing requirements.

You can judge that best by comparing it yourself with some examples.

I don’t know what criteria I should use to evaluate it.

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Sorry if this is off-topic. I read that capture one sucks in color management and out of curiosity I’m trying to figure out how exactly.

Using this image I was able to get a color shift in the highlights using capture one. Following image was generated with capture one. Notice how highlights shift to orange:

With darktable I’m not able to get this effect, maybe because darktable does it right.

Could someone confirm this?

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IMO the embedded JPEG also shifts the highlights slightly towards orange.

However, the Capture One result looks much more “lively” to my eyes. The highlights on the bumper or slats are not muted but shiny. Compare that to the DT ones.

Top: darktable. Bottom: DSC04928.jpg from Highlights exposure/color vs JPEG - #11 by 7osema


The whole image, using darktable:

DSC04928_01.ARW.xmp (18.8 KB)

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Similar thing occures in darktable when using a basecurve.

However, even if my basecurve is really strong / boosting contrast (no preservation modes used), the colour shift is - I think - much less visible.

DSC04928.ARW.xmp (14.6 KB)

Also, C1’s image is brighter - when raising exposure in dt, I see the image becoming more orange, so it overall supports @anon41087856 explanations from one of his movies (I remember the example with the sky shifting from blue to cyan or even a bit green).

That being said, it looks to me that Capture One must be using some kind of basic basecurve. Well, they also add to the equation the “Custom crafted ICC profiles” they boast about.


Thanks for your response! I’m going to find and watch that video.

The response to my question is also explained very well in this video: This video is a must watch

thanks for the link @s7habo !